Various Artists

The Jazz Giants Play Horace Silver: Opus de Funk

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Now here is a really enterprising subject for a songbook album -- a composer who was not a Tin Pan Alley pop craftsman and whose output had not been anthologized until this release. True, Silver wrote fewer standards than, say, Porter or the Gershwins, and fewer jazz artists covered them, thus limiting Fantasy's choices (the zany Eddie Jefferson is heard on three of the 16 tracks, and his rendition of "The Preacher" is followed by another from Shirley Scott). Yet this collection gives ample and valuable evidence of how underregarded Silver has been as a composer. Working within a hard bop context garnished with gospel and the blues, Silver's tunes often achieve a winning combination of sophistication and earthiness, and they serve as fine launching pads for bop, soul, and even Latin-oriented players. Besides variations of the well-known "Senor Blues," "Song for My Father," and "Sister Sadie," there are also sleepers like the haunting bossa nova-styled "Moon Rays" of Vince Guaraldi and Bola Sete, and the easy-strutting "Doodlin'" by the Barney Kessel/Ray Brown/Shelly Manne trio (both in their CD debuts). A plethora of soulful musicians from the Prestige, Riverside, Contemporary, Fantasy, and Galaxy archives lead the sessions, including Phineas Newborn, Wes Montgomery, Milt Jackson, Art Pepper, Tommy Flanagan, Richard "Groove" Holmes, Blue Mitchell, and Jack McDuff, along with those mentioned before. Silver himself is to be found on only one track, backing Jackson on "Buhaina" -- and that's understandable, given his long-standing ties to Blue Note through the time span of this anthology. But this contractual quirk actually makes the collection even more of a significant tribute, showcasing a body of work that may prove to be as durable as that of the other great composer/pianist from this period, Thelonious Monk.

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